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EDUCATIONAL COMMENTARY 

Issued Twice-monthly by Marx House 
in association with the Daily Worker 


SECOND SERIES 

No. 6 

AUG. 13, 1943 


TWEXTY ONE YEARS OF 
FASCIST RULE IN ITAEY, 

When Mussolini was overthrown and replaced by the Badoglio Government, 
Fascism in Italy was shaken to its foundations, but not destroyed. Through 
Badoglio, the rulers of Italy strove to maintain their dictatorship, to continue 
war against the United Nations, A state of siege was proclaimed; Badoglio 
had declared war against the movement of the people for peace and freedom. 

Through RADIO MILAN, the leaders of the united peoples movement 
have issued the call for a general strike and mass demonstrations to frustrate 
the pro-fascist policy of Badoglio, to break with Nazi Germany, to restore 
the freedom of the trade unions, and win peace and freedom. The people 
are called on to take over power in the cities and villages, to take up arms 
for a People’s National Government of Peace and Freedom. 

The purpose of the Commentary is to show the main facts of the rise of 
fascism in Italy, the part played by the Badoglios, and the struggle of the 


people for liberation. 

HOW AND WHEN DID THE 

• FASCIST MOVEMENT 
COME INTO BEING IN 
ITALY? 

The first fascist organisation was formed 
in Italy in 1915, when Italy was still 
neutral in the Imperialist World War. 
The forerunner of the fascist party, the 
Fasci di Azione Intervenista, was set up 
with French subsidies to carry on propa¬ 
ganda for Italian intervention in the war 
against Germany and Austria. 

In March, 1919, it was re-named the 
Fascio di Combattimento. At this time 
Italy was the scene of a powerful revolu¬ 
tionary movement, and the aim of the 
Fascists was to disrupt the unity and 
power'of Italian labour, to act as the 
storm-troops of reaction against the rising 
tide of socialism. 

In December, 1920, at a time when 
Labour was becoming the strongest force 
in Italy and the old-established bourgeois 
parties were already thoroughly dis¬ 
credited, the reactionary forces promoted 
the transformation of the fascist organisa¬ 
tions into a political party as a new 
instrument to maintain their domination. 
WHAT WAS THE RECORD OF 

• MUSSOLINI BEFORE HE BE¬ 
CAME “DUCE” (LEADER)? 

When the Imperialist War broke out in 
1914 Mussolini was editor of the Socialist 
anti-war paper, Avanti, and was signatory 
to a Manifesto of the Socialist Party 
calling upon the workers to “ get ready 


to resist Italy’s being dragged into 
the whirlpool of this frightful adven¬ 
ture.” 

Within a few weeks he turned his coat. 
Not yet daring to come out openly for war, 
he preached “ relative neutrality.” In 
October, 1914, he was expelled from the 
Socialist Party, and in the following month 
founded the paper Popolo d’Italia and the 
Fasci di Azione Intervenista group to 
campaign for Italy’s intervention in the 
war. In all this Mussolini acted as a 
paid agent of the French General 
Staff, which furnished him with 
liberal subsidies. He was also sub¬ 
sidised by the Italian Government, 
which circulated the Popolo d’Italia free 
among the troops to combat socialist 
influence. Just as Hitler launched the 
Nazi Party as an agent of the German 
General Staff, so Mussolini launched 
the fascist movement in Italy as a 
hireling of the French and Italian 
General Staffs. 

WHEN DID FASCISM BE- 
• COME A FORCE? 

In the years immediately after the end 
of the War, the movement of the workers 
and peasants in Italy developed with great 
rapidity. 

Membership of the Socialist Party leapt 
from 70,000 in 1918 to over 200,000 in 
1919. Trade Union membership rose to 
over 4 million (General Confederation 
of Labour, 2,250,000; Italian Confedera¬ 
tion of Workers—the Christian T.U’s— 









1,800,000). The Co-operative Movement 
attained great strength, with over 19,000 
societies. 

In the General Election of November, 
1919, the Socialist Party emerged as the 
strongest single party, winning 156 out of 
508 seats. In the municipal elections of 
1920 they won control of over 2,000 local 
authorities,more than one-thirdof the total. 

In the 1919 elections the fascists did not 
win a single seat. Mussolini polled only 
4,795 votes in Milan, compared with 
180,000 votes won by the Socialist candi¬ 
dates. In 1920 the membership of the 
Fascist organisation was no more than 
20 , 000 . 

A year later, by the end of 1921, the 
fascists claimed 248,000 members. Before 
another year had passed a fascist govern¬ 
ment was in power. 

Q what was the situation 

• IN ITALY AT THIS TIME? 

In September, 1920, employers in 
Northern Italy tried to check the progress 
of Labour by declaring a lock-out. The 
workers took up the challenge, answering 
by occupation of the factories. Over 
half-a-million workers were in unchal¬ 
lenged control of the factories, running 
them through their own workers com¬ 
mittees, protected by an armed workers 
guard. 

Italy was at a momentous turning point 
in its history. Analysing this situation in 
his Fascism and Social Revolution, R. P. 
Dutt notes that: 

“ the condition of victory (for social¬ 
ism) was that the movement began 
by the occupation of the factories 
should be extended to the conquest 
of political power by the workers 
which the bourgeoisie was then 
powerless to resist,” 

This extension did not take place. By 
accepting a compromise settlement to end 
the occupation of the factories, and 
pleading for admission into coalition 
governments—rather than lead the move¬ 
ment forward to the winning of power— 
certain sections of the Socialist and Trade 
Union leaders played into the hands of 
reaction by allowing it time to prepare its 
forces. 

This was just what they wanted. 
Throughout this period successive Italian 
governments, not being able to command 
the forces necessary to control the situa¬ 
tion (e.g. the troops sided with the 
workers), pursued a policy of sham 
liberalism and grudging concessions, on the 
one hand, while—on the other hand— 
preparing for a policy of violent oppression 
when their forces were prepared. 

BY WHAT MEANS WAS THE 
FASCIST PARTY BUILT UP 
TO BECOME THE STATE 
POWER IN ITALY? 


preparing for rev'enge—the total sup¬ 
pression of the Labour Movement, of all 
democratic rights and liberties. 

The Fascist Party, led by the renegade 
socialist, Benito Mussolini, was their 
chosen instrument and was built up for its 
job by the following means:— 

—By immense subsidies from the big 
industrialists, large landowners, 
merchants, bankers, etc. (Professor 
Salvemini, in Under the Axe of Fascism, 
gives many examples: sugar-beet pro¬ 
ducers putting ten centisimos on the 
price of their produce, the Italian 
Association of Joint Stock Companies 
levying one-fifth of 1 per cent on the 
capital of all companies, to subsidise the 
Fascist legions). 

—By sheer lying propaganda intended 
to confuse the people by a show of 
opposition to the reactionary circles. 

(At this period Mussolini called for 
abolition of the monarchy and nobility, 
confiscation of war profits, abolition of 
the stock exchanges, the land for the 
peasants, workers’ control of industry, 
and international disarmament.) 

—the organisation of a fascist legion 
on a military footing, the hooligans 
who enlisted being paid from the 
subsidies of the wealthy and armed 
by the General Staff, with the con¬ 
nivance of the Government. 

Within a few months of the compromise 
settlement which brought the occupation 
of the factories to an end, the reactionaries 
had judged the time ripe to strike. 

‘‘At the end of 1920 the fascists began 
methodically to smash the trade unions and 
co-operatives by beating, banishing or 
killing their leaders and destroying their 
property. ... All the organisations of the 
working class, whatever their banner, were 
marked down for destruction. . . the fas¬ 
cists were provided with arms, ammuni¬ 
tion, and means of transport by the 
military authorities and could almost 
always count on the passive and frequent 
active connivance of the police." {Salve- 
mini, “ Under the Axe of Fascism.) 
Between January and May, 1921, the 
Fascist Legions had destroyed the prem¬ 
ises of 120 local Labour Organisations, 
conducted raids and attacks on 243 others, 
killed 202 active workers and wounded 
another 1,144. During the same period 
2,240 workers were arrested for the crime 
of self-defence, while only 162 of the 
fascist hooligans were arrested. 

By such means was the coming to power 
of fascism prepared. 

Q what is the truth 

• ABOUT THE “FASCIST 
REVOLUTION ” AND THE 
“MARCH ON ROME”? 

Mussolini has sedulously spread t-he 
myth that the coming to power of fascism 
was a “ revolution ” against the then rulers 
achieved by a heroic “ March on Rome ” 


All the time they were forced to retreat, 
the ruling reactionary circles were actively person. 

UNIVERSITY O' ALGERIA. 




The facts are quite different. There 
was no revolution in Italy. 

The Fascist Movement was built up and 
installed in power by the most powerful 
and reactionary sections of the ruling class 
as their chosen means of perpetuating 
their profits, power, and class rule. 

Those who today place hopes on the 
Generals such as Badoglio should 
remember that the fascist “ March on 
Rome ” on October 28th, 1922, was 

organised by six Army Generals, and that 
the support of the militarist caste was 
demonstrated by the fact that on the day 
previous, October 27th, the Commander- 
in-Chief of the armed forces addressed a 
rally of the Fascist!. 

Those who place hopes on King 
Victor Emmanuel or others of the 
House of Savoy, Italy’s monarchy, 
should remember that Mussolini stayed 
away from the “ March on Rome ” until a ' 
telegram from the King brought him to 
the capital in a sleeping car in response to 
the message: 

“HONOURABLE MUSSOLINI: 
His Majesty the King requests you to 
come immediately to Rome, desiring 
to charge you with the formation of a 
Ministry. (Signed) GENERAL GUAR- 
DINI.” 

The bankers, industrialists and 
landlords provided the subsidies to 
finance fascism. 

The generals provided the arms and 
ammunition and officered the fascist 
legions. 

The Monarchy provided the cloak 
of legality behind which Fascism was 
installed in power. 

WHEN DID ITALY GOME 

• UNDER COMPLETE FASCIST 
DICTATORSHIP? 

Not until 1926. From the time of the 
“ March on Rome ” in 1922 till 1926 the 
Italian workers maintained an unbroken 
resistance. Here is the “ casualty list '' 
for twelve months. Sept., 1925-Sept., 1926: 
76 workers assassinated; 349 wounded; 
7,858 arrested; 12,252 raids and searches 
on workers’ houses, 131 organisations 
broken up; 406 newspapers banned. 

As a result of this resistance Mussolini 
could not immediately impose full fascist 
dictatorship:— 

“ at first a show of parliamentary forms and 
permission of opposition parties and press 
was maintained, alongside wholesale 
governmentally maintained violence and 
terrorism in practice. It was not until 
1926 that the completed Fascist dictatorship 
was finally established, with complete sup¬ 
pression of all other parties, organisations 
and Press, the Workers' Trade Unions 
being officially incorporated in the fascist 
syndicates." {R. P. Dutt, “ Fascism and 
Social Revolution.") 

WHY WAS THE LABOUR 

• MOVEMENT UNABLE TO 
PREVENT FASCIST RULE ? 


The clue to the solution of this riddle is 
provided by Professor Salvemini in Under 
the Axe of Fascism. 

Labour was the one force which could 
have wrecked the plans of reaction for 
imposing a fascist dictatorship. But 
Labour failed because the movement was: 
“ divided among themselves and 
hence incapable of united action.” 

In the Trade Union field the workers 
were split through the existence of two 
Confederations (in effect, two T.U.C’s) 
plus a number of strong anarchist unions. 

In the political field, too, the forces 
of the workers were divided (those who 
wish to make a closer study of the facts 
and causes of this division should read the 
articles on the subject in the Selected 
Works of Lenin, Vol. 10). 

Together with this lack of unity was the 
absence of firmness of purpose and clarity 
of aim. At decisive moments (e.g. 
occupation of the factories), the dominant 
sections of the leadership (e.g. Seratti) 
showed a fatal irresolution. 

The working class of Italy and other 
countries has paid a heavy price for 
this lack of unity, which made pos¬ 
sible the victory of fascism, and has 
still to learn the full lessons. 

WHAT HAS FASCIST RULE 
o IN ITALY MEANT FOR THE 
COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE ? 

Twenty-one years of fascist rule have 
brought nothing but national shame and 
disaster upon Italy. 

—Fascism promised prosperity; it brought 
unheard-of poverty for the people and 
bankruptcy on the nation. 

—Fascism promised Italy the “ glories ” of 
Empire; it brought the loss of all Italy’s 
overseas territory. 

—Fascism promised self-sufficiency ; in fact, 
it reduced Italy to the shameful status of a 
vassal of Hitler Germany. 

—Fascism promised expansion and con¬ 
quests; instead it brought a series of 
inglorious defeats. 

WHAT BROUGHT THE 
• DOWNFALL OF MUSSOLINI? 

The immediate cause was the severe 
internal crisis brought about by the 
humiliating defeats suffered by the Italian 
forces on all fronts. The invasion of Sicily 
and the defeat of the Nazi summer 
offensive by the Red Army brought the 
crisis to a head. It would be wrong, 
however, to overlook the part played 
by the anti-fascist forces within Italy 
itself. 

The welcome to the British and 
American armies in Sicily demonstrates 
the longing of the Italian people for 
liberation. But they do not passively 
await liberation from without; they 
have taken up the struggle to liberate 
themselves. 






For long, active resistance was confined 
to a minority, with the majority expressing 
their hostility by a sullen passive resist¬ 
ance, which in itself became a force:— 

“ The decisive factor of Italy’s mili¬ 
tary impotence in this war has been 
the indifference and hostility of the 
masses, and consequently of the 
soldiers, to Mussolini’s war adven¬ 
tures.” (Ercoli: Italians against Musso¬ 
lini.) 

Since the Italian rulers dragged Italy 
into war against the Soviet Union, passive 
hostility has rapidly given way to militant 
mass resistance. Great strikes in the main 
industrial areas, widespread refusal of the 
peasants to deliver crops and products, 
undermined the regime. In many pro¬ 
vinces the movement reached the stage of 
guerilla warfare. In Trieste, 71 guerillas 
were tried in December, 1941. In Fiume, 
17 guerillas were condemned in January, 
1942. In Gorizia, 11 guerillas were shot 
in June, 1942. 

The defeats and humiliations suf¬ 
fered by the fascist armies do not 
prove that “ Italians cannot fight,” 
but only that they refused to sacrifice 
themselves for the criminal imperial¬ 
ist policy of their rulers. The long- 
sustained fight against the fascist 
terror, the recent mass strikes, wide¬ 
spread sabotage, the guerilla warfare, 
as well as the glorious record of the 
Garibaldi Division of Italian anti¬ 
fascists who fought with the Inter¬ 
national Brigade against Mussolini, 
Hitler, Franco in Spain, prove that the 
Italian people can fight well and be 
worthy allies in a just cause. 

The weakening of fascism through the 
military victories of the United Nations 
made possible the emergence of a powerful 
anti-fascist mass movement. Fearing that 
they would be swept from power, the 
ruling class has thrown Mussolini to the 
wolves. By so doing, they strive to keep 
power in their own hands, damp down and 
confuse the mass movement, and as the 
activities of the Badoglio Government 
prove—carry on the essence of the fascist 
policy and dictatorship over the people, 
while continuing the alliance with Hitler 
Germany against the democratic nations. 

IS BADOGLIO, OR THE 
• HOUSE OF SAVOY, THE 
ONLY ALTERNATIVE TO 
MUSSOLINI? 

Fascism destroyed the legal organisa¬ 
tions of the Italian people and killed, broke 
in prison, or forced into exile their best 
leaders. But the recent wave of mass 
strikes, the existence of a widely-circulated 
anti-fascist press, and the work of the 
illegal anti-fascist radio stations, is the 
proof that the people of Italy have 
forged powerful new organisations 
and centres of anti-fascist unity, and 


have thrown up new leaders from 
their ranks. 

So long ago as January, 1942, the Daily 
Worker reported the establishment of a 
united front of the Socialist and Com¬ 
munist parties with the “ Justice and 
Liberty ” movement on the basis of a 
common programme and joint work for 
the formation of Committees of Action 
against war and fascism.. In December, 
1942, the Daily Worker reported the 
extension of this united movement to 
include Liberal, Catholic, Republican and 
Democratic organisations. 

It is this united national movement of 
the people—and not the Badoglios—which 
inspired, organised and led the mass 
struggles which helped to bring about the 
downfall of Mussolini. It is this move¬ 
ment which is leading the struggle of 
the masses against the disastrous 
policy of the Badoglio Government, 
which demands a complete break 
with Nazi Germany, and the estab¬ 
lishment of a representative govern¬ 
ment of the people. 

It is in the united anti-fascist move¬ 
ment, expressing the will and inter¬ 
ests of the people, that Italy will find 
its salvation and the United Nations a 
firm ally. 

WHAT IS OUR RESPONSI- 
• BILITY IN THIS SITUATION ? 

The events in Italy prove that the 
peoples in the countries under fascist 
domination are ready to rise against their 
oppressors when the military blows of the 
United Nations prepare the conditions. 
Our first responsibility, therefore, is 
to call for greater speed, weight and 
co-ordination of the military offensive 
in the West to match the terrific blows 
being struck by the Red Army in the 
East. 

The events in Italy also prove that a 
policy of intrigues with the reactionary 
forces endangers the whole Allied cause. 
Solidarity with the Italian people in their 
demands for resignation of the Badoglio 
Government, abdication of the King, and 
for the formation of a National Govern¬ 
ment of Peace and Freedom will 
strengthen the liberation movement in all 
countries under the heel of Fascism. 


RECOMMENDED READING 

Books mentioned in the text 
Fascism and Social Revolution and Under 
the Axe of Fascism are out of print but will 
be available from many Public Libraries. 

Italians against Mussolini, 
by Ercoli is available from Workers’ 
Bookshops, price 3d. 

For current developments read the 
Daily Worker. 




Published by A. Massie for Marx House, I Doughty Street, W.C. 1, and printed by the 
Euston Press, London, N.W. 1.